First off, don’t panic. This is just a friendly heads up to be on the lookout. We’ve found a few in lawns and on driveways here and there across the area and this is the time of year we start to see them.
Fall armyworms, also known as “climbing cutworms” are caterpillars that prefer to feed on grasses. Their body color can range from green to brown or black. They have a stripe down each side of their body forming a “Y” at the front. Tall fescue is their favorite snack, but you can find them in bermudagrass or as well.
One generation of fall armyworms can develop in about 18-28 days depending on temperature. Typically we could see 2-3 infestations throughout the season, with them occurring until the first killing frost of the year. Late July through late October is generally the window.
The easiest way to detect them is just observing the turf. You’ll find them munching on leaf blades during the day, sometimes there will be a large presence of birds feeding in your yard as well. Another way to search for them is with a “soapy flush.”
A soapy water flush involves mixing one tablespoon of lemon-scented dish soap per gallon of water and pouring the solution over several small areas of damaged turf. If present, larvae should be visible within 60 seconds as they become irritated by the flush and leave their hiding places in the thatch.
If you start to see armyworms in your turf or begin to crawl across your driveway and sidewalks, just give us a call. You might not need treatment if it’s just a few spread out but it’s definitely worth keeping your eye on as we make it into the fall season.